retail news in context, analysis with attitude

MNB Archive Search

Please Note: Some MNB articles contain special formatting characters, and may cause your search to produce fewer results than expected.

    Published on: April 4, 2017

    by Michael Sansolo

    I blew it.

    A few weeks back, I wrote about the University of Connecticut’s women’s basketball team and its seemingly endless march to glory as it rang up 111 consecutive victories over more than three years. I wrote about the team’s dedication to detail and how, despite all its titles, nothing was ever taken for granted.

    But I missed the most important lesson.

    If you haven’t heard by now (it was even in Monday’s MNB) UConn lost in the semi-finals of the collegiate championship. Obviously that wasn’t my fault. There’s no MNB jinx nor is it likely the team even knows about us.

    After the game I saw an interview with UConn’s peerless coach, Geno Auriemma, who basically delivered the lesson about the entire streak and did it in the most unexpected way.

    Essentially, Auriemma said losing was good - even important - for his young team, both as players and as people. As the coach explained, constantly winning was fabulous, but it was also a fantasy. No one always wins and his team needed to learn both that and how to cope with defeat.

    Auriemma’s comment is hardly a new thought. Philosophers, generals and countless athletes have said the same; that the real lessons come from losing and finding a way to bounce back.

    In many ways I know think that is the far more important lesson from the excellence of the Connecticut team. Yes, their dedication to detail that I wrote about before matters. Their relentless focus to always playing their best is a powerful model for any of us in anything we do.

    But the importance of living with and learning from mistakes is even more important.

    Think about some of the topics we discuss here at MNB on a regular basis, including the challenges posed by Amazon and other e-commerce operators to other new competitors, new employee issues, consumers and everything else. In truth, no one (especially us) knows how any of this will play out.

    Yet it will play out. That’s a guarantee. Amazon or Aldi might change retail as we know it, or they might not. Either way, we know they will try and that then - inevitably - someone else will come after them.

    Every company is going to try various ideas to fight back or just survive. Some of those ideas, strategies and tactics will work and some won’t. The winners in the end will likely be those who most quickly learn from their mistakes, adapt and move on. The losers will either fail to move on or will simply not take chances.

    Those of you managing others need to especially consider Auriemma’s words. Unquestionably, people on your team will make mistakes all the time. Perfection simply doesn’t exist. The challenge is how do you help them grow from the mistakes so they are better the next time.

    Put another way, do mistakes and losing paralyze us or motivate us? The answer may make all the difference to your future.

    Remember, winning isn’t everything. Learning and improvement are.


    Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at msansolo@morningnewsbeat.com . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available on Amazon by clicking here. And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon by clicking here.
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 4, 2017

    by Kevin Coupe

    We've reported here numerous times on MNB over the years about the changes taking place in the banking business as that industry responds to shifting consumer trends.

    Now, the Financial Times has a story about how Bank of America is expanding its experiment with unmanned branches that the company feels can better serve its customers, while simultaneously cutting costs. These branches offer "enough technology" so that consumers can "do a lot of simple tasks themselves," and then, "if they want something more complex - plan for retirement, start a small business - they are steered into a side room, where they can videoconference with specialists sitting in call centres."

    Bank of America opened three of these branches in the US last year, and reportedly plans to open another 25 around the country.

    "I don't believe analysts who say the branch is dead; that's just lame, " says Charles Liu, head of branch transformation at Bank of America. "But, we're at the forefront of trying to change the model. We have to evolve."

    There was a time when it made sense for banks to have branches on virtually every corner, but the growth of mobile-enabled banking has made that kind of physical footprint redundant. Now, banks are having to retrench and figure out what the new balance should be ... not to mention what it should be next year and the year after that.

    It is a good lesson for every retailer to consider, especially because we live in a world that may be as over-stored as it is over-banked.

    It is a lesson that should be an Eye-Opener.
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 4, 2017

    Tech Crunch reports this morning that Amazon is launching something called Amazon Cash, described as a service "that allows consumers to add cash to their Amazon.com balance by showing a barcode at a participating retailer, then having the cash applied immediately to their online Amazon account." Initially, "Amazon Cash will be available at brick-and-mortar retailers across the U.S., including CVS Pharmacy, Speedway, Sheetz, Kum & Go, D&W Fresh Market, Family Fare Supermarkets, and VG’s Grocery."

    The story goes on to say that "like PayPal, Amazon Cash is also meant to appeal to the same general demographic who may not yet be shopping online – those who get paid in cash, don’t have a bank account or debit card, and who don’t use credit cards ... The advantage to Amazon Cash is that, as soon as you checkout at the register, the funds are available in the customer’s Amazon account. There are also no fees – something that can’t be said of all the prepaid cards on the market."
    KC's View:
    I totally get why Amazon would would want to figure out how to get into the wallets of unbanked US consumers, especially because that group generally has been fertile territory for arch-rival Walmart.

    What I cannot quite figure out is why any traditional bricks-and-mortar retailer would want to provide the means for Amazon to do so. I assume these companies get to dip their beaks a bit when these payments into Amazon accounts are made, but this then enables shoppers to go on Amazon to buy products they otherwise might've bought at places like D&W or CVS.

    This may be a smart short-term tactical move, but strategically it sounds to me like it would be counter-productive.

    Published on: April 4, 2017

    The Chicago Tribune reports that Kroger-owned Mariano's has announced that beginning later this month, it will begin offering a click-and-collect option to Chicago-area shoppers.

    According to the story, "Mariano's will launch ClickList at its Vernon Hills location, followed by stores in Oak Lawn and Chicago's Bucktown neighborhood this summer. Shoppers will be able to order their groceries for pickup through the ClickList app or website for a flat fee of $4.95.

    "Mariano's plans to add ClickList to seven more stores by the end of the year, with continued rollout in the chain's 41 stores planned for next year, said Lauren Edmonson, Mariano's e-commerce manager ... Mariano's will add, on average, about seven employees per store who will be trained in food selection and safety, Edmonson said. The gradual one-store-at-a-time launch in the Chicago area will allow the chain to work out any 'bugs or kinks,' she said."

    The Tribune goes on to point out that "the race is on for grocery stores competing for online shopping dollars. By 2025, online grocery shopping is projected to grow to 20 percent of all grocery spending, or $100 billion in annual sales, according to research from the Food Marketing Institute and Nielsen."
    KC's View:
    With rare exceptions, this is something that every retailer has to have ... at least if they want to seem relevant to their shoppers.

    Published on: April 4, 2017

    Save-A-Lot, the limited assortment store chain majority owned by private equity group Onex, said yesterday that it is getting a new CEO - Kenneth McGrath, who "spent 13 years with Lidl in executive roles including Chief Executive Officer of Lidl Ireland from 2009 to 2013 and Chief Executive Officer of Lidl USA from 2013 to 2015."

    After launching Lidl's US operations, McGrath became CEO of the Caribbean and Central America region at wireless telecommunications firm Digicel.

    McGrath succeeds Eric Claus, the former A&P CEO who joined the company in December 2015 and took it through its separation from former owner Supervalu. Claus also was the former chairman/CEO of Red Apple Stores, a Canadian value-driven chain.
    KC's View:
    This strikes me as an interesting move, because it appears that Onex is placing a bet that if it wants to play on the same field with Aldi and Lidl, it needs to play the game the same way. That's the reason you hire a former Lidl exec.

    When Claus became CEO at Save-A-Lot, I was intrigued because I thought he would be able to bring his experience in Canada to the US - discount stores there tend to have a very different feel than those in the US, and I was looking forward to seeing how he would apply lessons from there to stores here. (I always thought that given more time, he actually might've been able to save A&P - Claus is a smart and aggressive guy who, I've always felt, thrives on being a change agent.)

    I have no idea what might've transpired at Onex, but it is a private equity group ... and such institutions generally tend to favor safer bets. McGrath's Lidl experience may make him appear to be a safer bet, but the question is whether he'll be able to create in Save-A-Lot as differentiated an experience as it needs to be.

    Published on: April 4, 2017

    The Charlotte Observer reports that Dollar General has confirmed its intention to acquire Dollar Express, which operates 323 discount stores in 36 states, described as "the chain of former Family Dollar stores owned since late 2015 by the private equity firm Sycamore Partners." Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

    Dollar General, attempted to acquire all of Family Dollar in 2014, but was stymied by federal regulators, who ruled that for antitrust reasons it was more appropriate for the company to be acquired by Dollar Tree; however, hundreds of stores had to be spun off in order to satisfy the regulators.

    The Observer writes that "up to 2,700 part-time and full-time store employees around the country may be losing their jobs" as a result of the new acquisition.
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 4, 2017

    • The Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal reports that General Mills is a likely suitor for Stonyfield, the organic yogurt brand that is being divested by Danone in the wake of its acquisition of White Wave.

    The story says that "Stonyfield would fit well into General Mills' efforts to focus more on organic and natural foods and potentially give a boost to its ailing Yoplait yogurt business, which has been losing market share to Greek-style yogurt maker Chobani."

    Dean Foods is also said to be a likely bidder for Stonyfield.
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 4, 2017

    • Kmart's president/chief member officer Alasdair James has landed a new job - as CEO of Pier 1 Imports, which ousted its last CEO, Alex Smith, last year.


    Bloomberg reports that "Nestle SA will elevate pet-care veteran Fernando Mercé to the job of running its $4.5 billion bottled-water business in North America." He succeeds Tim Brown, who left to become COO at Chobani.


    • Tesco and dunnhumby announced the appointment of Guillaume Bacuvier as as dunnhumby CEO. The announcement notes that Guillaume is currently the Vice President of Advertising Solutions at Google, and previously worked at Orange Group and he began his career as a Senior Project Manager with Booz Allen Hamilton.
    KC's View:

    Published on: April 4, 2017

    Yesterday, MNB took note of a New York Times story about how millennials, popularly perceived as favoring "a new national consensus" toward gender equality, may in fact have different and divergent views of the subject. The fact is that they don't think alike

    One of the reasons is that millennials are a large group, made up of people from aged 17 to 34, "a group varied by race, ethnicity, religion, income, education and life experience." They don't all think alike, and younger millennials are trending in the direction where they feel that "the best family was one where the man was the main income earner and the woman took care of the home." (Males feel that way more than females, it should be noted.

    The Times story went on:

    "It’s not just the youngest millennials who seem resistant to continuing the gender revolution. Overall, Americans aged 18 to 34 are less comfortable than their elders with the idea of women holding roles historically held by men. And millennial men are significantly more likely than Gen X or baby boomer men to say that society has already made all the changes needed to create equality in the workplace."

    I commented, in part:

    Here's what I think. (It also is what my daughter thinks, and I believe, if I've done my job right, it is what my millennial sons think.) Equality means that no matter what your gender (or anything else for that matter), you ought to be able to decide how you want to live your life. You want to work full-time, do it. You want to have kids and stay home with them, fine. If you want to get married and find some sort of mutually agreeable hybrid, no problem. Everybody has the right to seek fulfillment however they want to, and everybody has the right to make sacrifices - or decide not to - as related to their personal and professional lives.

    I do think that it is instructive that millennial women seem a lot less inclined to move toward what might be thought of traditional gender roles. And I find it laughable that anyone would think that "society has already made all the changes needed to create equality in the workplace."

    I read pieces like this, and I get worried that somehow we're moving backward. This strikes me as unacceptable.


    One MNB user responded:

    Kevin, I could not help but notice you final sentence in your commentary.

    "I read pieces like this, and I get worried that somehow we're moving backward. This strikes me as unacceptable."

    I'm actually appalled that you think having a Mother and Father in the same household is unacceptable. I simply cannot see why you think this was moving backwards? I also think the "gender revolution" has run it's course and millennials are starting to realize what was once a hip thing to support is destroying the traditional family format.


    It pains me to point out that you misunderstood what I was saying. I did not say that having a mother and father in the same household is unacceptable. In fact, I didn't even address the idea of having a mother and father "in the same household." (I assume one of them has to work...so they can't always both be in the same household at the same time.)

    What I was saying was - and I guess I was not as clear as I thought - that men and women ought to have the same opportunities and the ability to make choices from the same range of options.

    Let me repeat:

    Equality means that no matter what your gender (or anything else for that matter), you ought to be able to decide how you want to live your life. You want to work full-time, do it. You want to have kids and stay home with them, fine. If you want to get married and find some sort of mutually agreeable hybrid, no problem. Everybody has the right to seek fulfillment however they want to, and everybody has the right to make sacrifices - or decide not to - as related to their personal and professional lives.

    I'm happy to double down on this. Any other social/cultural construct is, in my view, unacceptable.

    Y'know what kind of appalls me? The suggestion that "the gender revolution has run it's course" and that it was just some sort of "hip thing."

    The revolution of which you are speaking is about nothing so much as equality of opportunity and aspiration. If there is anything to be ashamed of in this, it is that it takes a revolution to achieve it.

    If my sons or daughter felt any other way, I would think that somehow I failed as a parent.

    I feel better that at least one MNB reader agreed with me:

    Preach, Kevin! Your commentary is somewhat of an antidote to the crap more frequently assaulting my ears these days. I wish more people would raise their kids with your mindset.

    Thanks.

    (For the record, I've probably screwed up my kids in all sorts of other ways.)




    Regarding McDonald's foray into fresh rather than frozen beef, one MNB reader wrote:

    A little annoying only switch one burger. Why not all or none. It's to me like being sort of pregnant.  I like McDonald's for what they are. I'm not saying it can't be better. I hope this isn't a veiled attempt to just raise prices.

    I think the one-burger test is just a way to see how it works before going menu-wide.

    MNB reader Brian Carpentier wrote:

    On McDonalds using fresh beef, an interesting note is that while Wendy’s uses fresh beef, all the ones I have visited in the northeast use frozen buns, go figure!
     



    We had a story yesterday about a guy in Massachusetts who sued Dunkin' Donuts for putting a butter substitute on his bagel when he ordered butter, which prompted the following email:

    If they are looking at the “butter” on a bagel at Dunkin Donuts, when do they look at movie theater “butter” on popcorn?

    When someone sues.



    Regarding Publix reinvesting in its GreenWise format, one MNB reader wrote:

    I love shopping at Publix, Kevin.  They carry a pretty extensive array of Greenwise items.  The quality is excellent and the prices are very competitive.  I'm hopeful that they will continue to expand that line.  It saves me a 60+ mile round trip to Whole Foods in Naples FL.  Publix stores are always spotless, well organized and staffed with friendly, knowledgeable people.



    Finally, the following email from MNB reader Joe Davis:

    Kevin, thanks for sharing the news about IKEA’s foray into smart home solutions.  I’m excited about it – if for nothing else than the anticipated affordability of it. 

    But here is an observation (and speaking as a Millennial so we cannot blame crotchety-ness):  much like there are people who are book smart vs. street smart, I have come to find the same to be true for the smart home technology.  We have found smart lighting to be gimmicky and more “book smart” than it is useful – maybe we don’t have enough lights to run around turning off/on.  Smart thermostats are a bit better.  Smart fridges seem redundant (your phone can do the same and is probably in your pocket) and exaggerated in their capabilities, but again, cooler in theory than in practice.  Alexa is street smart because the experience is great and super useful.  She does stuff for me that actually saves significant time.  The others, not so much.

    We have embraced this kind of thinking in our business – just because we can do something digitally doesn’t mean we should.  What actually enhances the experience?  In an environment where it seems like everything is being pushed to go online, it’s important to prioritize what should.  It’s helped us be more targeted and realize a better ROI.

    One smart home device we have found to be something hard to imagine living without now?  Our wifi-connected oven.  Turning that sucker on remotely to preheat so when you get home you can just pop in whatever you need to cook is a big win.  Or peace of mind knowing that it’s off or being able to turn it off remotely.  Very cool.

    KC's View:

    Published on: April 4, 2017

    • In the NCAA men's collegiate basketball final last night, the North Carolina Tar Heels defeated the Gonzaga Bulldogs 71-65.



    • And, in the game that was watched a lot more carefully in our household, the New York Mets began the 2017 campaign with an Opening Day 6-0 win over the Atlanta Braves.
    KC's View: